Existential kvetches from your typical non-denominational, non-threatening, quasi-vegetarian, politically conscious, orthodox Jewish single gal. Kaenahora! MirtzaShem by you.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Why the hiatus?  Because this blog was associated with an aol account I haven't used in almost a decade.  There are indicators of adulthood, and then there are indicators of age, and sleuthing around your old internet stomping grounds:  Security question:  'What was the name of your favorite restaurant?'  Leads me back eight years, to when I lived at home with my parents as I struggled existentially to be both respectful of my upbringing, while learning just exactly what my values would be for my future, independent life.

jerusalem pizza?  Was that it?  no... incorrect answer.

Jerusalem Pizza?  ...not that either.

Sara's Deli?  They had this amazing pastrami sandwich, that to this day, I have yet to experience anything quite like it (and yes, this includes Katz's and 2nd Avenue).   Hmmmm.  What was the name of that sit-down restaurant (that's how Midwesterner's casually refer to fancy restaurants).  They had amazing food! You could get onion rings and Alfredo!  What the fuck was it called? 

Oh YEAH!  Milk and Honey!

Milk and Honey.  ....incorrect answer.



milk and honey.

Milk&Honey. BINGO!

And I am in, looking at an aol inbox.  My aim is Kazooey770 (back when the word 'kazooey' a made up word my then 2 year old brother used to say and 770, well, that number is extremely significant.  Those were gang numbers. If your screen name had '613' you were an uber-Jew, and if it said '770' you were a card carrying member of Chabad-Lubavitch.

My old inbox has 10,697 messages in it.  I click back to the oldest message and it's waves upon waves of spam.  I click on 'trash' it's empty...all of those embarrassing emails that lost me friends in high school.  I click 'spam' and it's, well, spam, nigerian phone scams, various enhancement promises from shady vitamin companies. 

The sent inbox is more promising:

Re: skittles

Date:Thu, Nov 29, 2007 10:35 am

-----Original Message-----
From: Jennifer
To: Tsivia; Elizabeth
Sent: Wed, 28 Nov 2007 9:38 pm
Subject: skittles

This is so sad
The following British kashrus alert is from the LBD on November 23, 2007.
British Skittles previously approved and pareve by the London Beth Din are now NOT KOSHER.
Ed. note: Skittles are not certified as kosher in the United States.
And another one:
Hi Tsivia,
See below. Tanya's email address is X. 
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Lea
Date: Wed, Feb 11, 2009 at 6:02 PM
Subject: Re: Job?
To: Tanya

That sounds great. Thanks so much, Tanya!

On Wed, Feb 11, 2009 at 5:43 PM, Tanya wrote:
We are so not hiring anyone right now due to the economy. But, have her send me her resume and I'll give it to Evan, just in case. How's that?
So, no.  I do not have any record of the existential turmoil I endured as a youth.  Only the vestiges I still carry around with me, as a fully grown, independent (some might read, stagnated) adult. 
So I am back. I have the old passwords, the old accounts, and most importantly, access to this blog (which is a passe endevour in it's own right...I mean, who has a blog when you can have a meme or a tumbler or twitter account?)  Still, I love the prose, and I love reading my old entries--as limited as they are--they are old friends, and in some ways, nothing has changed at all.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Okay, so I saw Jerry Stiller at the restaurant today. That was cool. But what I encountered a block from my apartment was much, much more effective in shaking me from my usual reverie.

A man just released from the hospital with all of his papers, and medical cards. He was pushing a broken walker and said he had both cancer and Aids. He was drooling a bit as he spoke. I am not sure why, but I believed his story.

I remember how I felt the first time I was asked for spare change by a man sitting on the sidewalk. I remember feeling absolutely humiliated for him—a grown up asking me, a child, for money. The equation wasn't one with which I was familiar and I remember feeling upset, and, angry that he made me feel that way.

I still feel awful when confronted by these hapless? conniving? sinister? pitiful? human beings.. It is such a profoundly saddening experience, to be asked for a series of band aids for wounds that are eternal…it seems as if there is no fix, and the pennies that are thrown at beggers can never suffice. Does. My. Money. Make. A. Difference. To. You. I. Say. With. My. Eyes. As. Yours. Say. Please. Please. Please.

This man, tonight, I gave him 13 dollars. I also asked a wealthy looking guy in his forties to help me. He was happily making his way down Broadway with his pregnant wife. They looked peeved at the intrusion.

Maybe it was my gorgeous new coat, or my no nonsense attitude that convinced them, or, maybe the well dressed Asian girl who was first approached by our ailing character. I saw the dread they felt (I was feeling it too). None of us wanted to be there.

So we asked him too many questions about his circumstance, we were distrustful. We did not want to be scammed. What did you say about the hospital? Where were you sent? Where do you want to go? What specifically, do you need help with?

If this poor man was an impostor—he was doing a remarkable job.

His story was that he was released from the hospital after another dreadful round of chemotherapy. He also said he had Aids. He was heading to a shelter for gay men—but the shelter was full and so they directed him to an alternate establishment on the other side of the Manhattan. His story is plausible; I’ve seen this before: Sick people near hospitals, release, nowhere to go, unwell, left to flounder, teetering, cold, helpless, pathetic.

Wayne State University, my Alma mater, was located 3 blocks from the Detroit VA. It was not uncommon to see men, with tubes attached to arms, or coming out of nostrils, sitting on the side of the road.

So tonight, Lewis, pulled out all the money he had, a ten. He said he needed 10 more…than looked at the address on his papers below and requested 20. We flagged down a cab, put him in and asked the driver how much it would cost. He said it would be about 20 dollars. Maybe more. Well, that was the second cabbie. The first refused to take him.

Maybe Lewis ripped us off. Maybe the aging, ailing, gay man thing was a hoax. Perhaps he practices daily, this spiel, in the mirror, in his rent controlled village apartment from the 1980s with his long haired angora cat peering down from an antique dresser. Maybe he made multiple trips to Goodwill to find the most pathetic looking walker. Maybe, maybe, maybe.

But I gave. And I would do it again. Because what gets me to give, and give again, is the thought that a human person has to stoop to the level of begging in the street, to leave his fate to the kindness of others, and for that, I could never forgive myself for failing to do so. I will not let Kitty Genovese die.

There are days when I am spent. I have no money in my pockets; I find the homeless irritating, undeserving, or worse, invisible. But some days, like today, I am shaken to my core.

Watching the cab drive off, I turn to the other Samaritan, his pregnant wife, and we say, Oh, he is off to target the next fool who fancies themselves a savior.

Well, in that case, for 13 bucks, he put on a good piece of theatre, and invited me to be in his play (which is more than what they offer at Les Miserables).

Sunday, September 27, 2009


The heavy duty black garbage bag was filled about a third, and steam was gently rising from the top. Sitting on the end of a folding table in the shul garage, its sides were taut with the dull weight of its contents.

I had just come from the shul's Succah, where my father was paying me 10 dollars for the evening, to help people who were too squeamish to touch a chicken. At ten years old, I was tall, shy, awkward, and skinnier than a pencil, tomboy; and at that point in my life, my friends still found it hilarious to call me daddy long legs. I hated that! But today I reigned. All my school friends came with their parents to 'shlug kapores" and I was assisting my father, and he was running the show.

I had talked to the farmers and learned how to hold a chicken so that it would be comfortable, I was going to help people shlug. ...I even held a chicken for Shalom, the cutest, tallest bochur in the yeshiva! Double, triple, dare, I did it, while he wouldn't!

On the Eve of Yom Kippur in is customary to participate in an ancient, but somewhat controversial custom known as Kaparos, which is a bit like a sin offering: Say a prayer, take a chicken (or a fish), swing it around your head and say something to the effect of "I am about to kill this chicken because I've been a bit of a jerk this year, and instead of me dying, this chicken is gonna end up as some yeshiva student's dinner.

Disclaimer: No one Jewish really believes he/she can get off as easy as a mental sin transfer. Personally, God still makes me suffer for evils I committed as a tiny-tyke in preschool, and the karma/guilt will keep coming my way whether I remember to call my mother on a weekly basis, or not. If you are Jewish, sins do not ever really disappear, I don't care what they told you in Sunday school about forgiveness. I don't care how much you drown your sorrows in Crown Royal, you, like an elephant, will never forget, and nor will the original elephant, God.

Many Rabbis say that chicken replacement therapy is a pagan custom that somehow crept into the Jewish tradition (and is reminiscent of sin offerings in the temple http://www.bknw.org/pafiledb/uploads/The%20Minhag%20of%20Kaparos%20-%20new.pdf); but no one I know really believes there is any sort of atonement here, it's purpose is really to provide a graphic wake up call: Being confronted with a creature's mortality will give you some perspective before you start wagering with Big Bro in the sky the next day in synagogue).

When I was tiny, the Lubavitch community would gather in the Greenberg's house, and a white hen would be lifted from a cardboard box. Then, Rabbi Greenberg would make his way around the house passing the chicken over everyone's heads (watch your shaitel, mom!). The chicken would then be returned to the box; we wished each other a happy, healthy, sweet new year and went home for kreplach in chicken soup and homemade round challahs with honey. The 25 hour fast day would commence at dusk.

To this day, I do not know why my father thought our community needed something grander than this tame neighborhood gathering. My father was, is, and always will be a stickler for performing a Mitzvah to its ultimate potential, but the chicken thing really became something else. I think he, having experienced Kaparos in NYC, felt that one chicken for the entire community was a real cop out. If you were gonna do this thing right, for every man, woman and child, born or unborn, a chicken should be had (with his visions of equality, Ta should have gone into politics).

The following year, sometime in early July, my father called a local egg farmer. He ordered 200 chicks to be raised and cared for at the farm and brought to our shul on the specified morning. Waking up early that day, with the damp gray fall air, we were bundled into our jackets and escorted to our shteibel's parking lot where we were confronted with not one docile hen, but a flock of indignant birds. This year, the birds had presence.

I remember touching a chicken, staring at it in the eye, and ogling its leathery feet. Kids absolutely loved this experience, even the screamers, who were terrified, enjoyed being terrified. Young mothers halfheartedly chased their kids around the parking lot. One expectant mother had three chickens, a hen for herself, and a hen and rooster for her unborn child, as identifying gender pre-birth is bad luck and she wanted to have her bases covered. Her husband waved the chickens over her bulging tummy.

After this fun experience, moms and kids went home. Pre yom tov naps, Seuda Hamafsekes, the pre yom kippur meal, lacing man made sneakers, fussing over hair and bows, etc.

Back at shul in an alley, the chickens were ritually slaughtered by a shochet. My father had a brood of yeshiva bochurim who, keen to see some of their halacha classes come to life, volunteered for the experimental Koshering experience. That year, it was the blind leading the blind, and although they managed to kosher 20 chickens, by the time the day was done, due to error and inexperience, they did not produce a single, kosher, ready-to-eat chicken. Chicken carnage.

It's a good thing we do not remember everything from childhood: I have no memory of the following year when my mother decided to take matters into her own hands; hiring a team of Russian immigrants to deal with the heavy processing, she koshered the chickens herself. My mother frequently found herself in Minhag catch 22: Don't do it, failure as Jew, disappoint husband or, take it upon yourself, and.. ...rant #345: "Is there ANYONE else in this community who has to PUT UP with what I have to PUT UP WITH?!"

Unfortunately, this memory is as vivid for her as ever, like labor. She remembers being so tired that night, she was unable to serve our highly distinguished houseguests our pre yom kippur meal. She also remembers the entire process as a haze of obscenities: Imagine an instillation at a formidable art museum: A young woman in housecoat stands under a spotlight; she is repeating the word "shit" as an under-the-breath mantra as she guts hundreds of dead birds, and picks off endless pin feathers, her hands slick with blood, up to the wrists...).

The next year, dear old dad got it right. At this point, we were up to 400 chickens. He ordered bright yellow T-shirts and baseball caps that said "I shlugged Kapores" with the silhouette of a chicken printed on the side. He partnered with a large shul in town which had a high capacity succah, an outdoor gazebo space for the ritual slaughter, and a massive garage for processing the chickens, to be overseen by a butcher. The local Jewish press was called and Jews from all walks of life showed up and were thrilled with their pictures that appeared in the paper the next week. The chickens became the Shabbos meals of various youngsters in various yeshivas, and my mother was able to show up with her kids and parents and leave the mess to others.

It was the following year that I found myself standing in the garage facing the steaming black garbage bag. Earlier that evening, I had held Shalom's chicken, assisted an elderly woman with the prayers, sold a T-shirt, and had even walked down with a group to the slaughter's gazebo, so that they could watch and get the extra Mitzvah of covering up the spilled blood with dirt.

Only a few hours earlier, I had never see anything larger than a spider killed, and while I was somewhat nauseated by the experience of ritual slaughter, I also was fascinated and proud. The slaughterer, an extremely serious and methodical Rabbi, had a quiet grace and a soft almost inaudible voice, though he commanded authority. He would take the chicken and hold it in his arm, like a baby, where the bird would quiet. He would then pull its neck back, hold the feathers back with his finger and quickly draw the knife over the bird's neck. He then would turn the bird over, opening and draining the slit throat and drop the dead bird into an industrial sized garbage can, where the chicken would flap around a bit, the noise and feathers ricocheting around the sides of the bin.

I was pleased to witness Shchitah. Even then, experiencing the death of dinner was profoundly impactful. I felt, even with the gore, that the process was humane; and if I could bear to watch it, I deserved to eat it. I felt connected to my forbearers, who undoubtedly knew the animals they ate, and were intimately connected to their births, lives and deaths. I also felt proud of my father who provided this opportunity for the community to witness the gaps in the loop of life, to become acquainted with their part in the food chain and to experience nature, if at all for a few minutes as part of religious experience. I felt this then, even if I couldn't articulate it.

But back to the garbage bag. It was after accompanying this particular group to watch the slaughter that I decided to check on the processing of the slaughtered birds out back in the garage.

Climbing up a small hill behind the synagogue an efficient system was in place, complete with buckets of birds, an industrious assembly line of pizza store guys (every orthodox community has a slew of "pizza store guys" ready for odd jobs), good knives, rubber gloves, hoses, plastic bags, kosher salt, soaking pails, boards, and racks. The young men, directed by a professional, were diligently butchering these birds. On one end, bloody dead birds, at the other, recognizable dinner. I was fascinated and terribly revolted, and watched for a while, the workers too busy to notice.

To this day, I'm not really sure how I found myself volunteering to dispose of a particular black garbage bag, but it somehow happened. Maybe the monotony of the labor had desensitized the guy who made the request, or maybe he and a few friends thought it would be funny to dare a scrawny ten year old to take the bag to the dumpster, but in any event, I volunteered, thrilled to be included and in my view, taken seriously. The next thing I knew I had my hands wrapped around the bag, twisted it closed, never peeking at its intimidating contents (which were warm, almost hot, to the touch). I proceeded to carry the bag down the hill to the dumpster.

My next memory is of feeling the bag in my hands, but it feeling terribly... weightless. I look down and gasp. In the orange glow of the outdoor driveway light, under a full harvest moon, are the contents of the bag, slick and slung on the sparse gravely grass, the bag, giving way under the wieght and heat of its contents. Chicken entrails.

The run-away mass was a gelatinous mess of glistening yarns of chicken intestines, replete with the greenish bulbs of chicken gall bladders, yellow and orange lumps, red and purple strands, wet, stinking and hot. Steam rose from the mass, like a lumpy cholent, gone terribly wrong. My mind jumped to images of demons, imps, dybbuks and the angel of death whose vividness had been amplified by my voracious reading of Isaac B. Singer addictive children's stories--the netherworld and its beings quite possibly inhabited the shtetles of Eastern Europe--but never until now, could they ever possibly exist in the vapid and outright pareve sprawl of suburban Michigan. The sight at my feet washes over my five senses. I am staring at a demon's lair, I am smelling the fowlest, foulest, scent that is so rich I can taste it, my eyes watering; I am holding a slick and gently waving plastic trash bag; and I hear the pulsing of my own blood in my ears. I have been carrying a compact travel size variety of hell.

Quickly Rabbi Someone (details fail me), grabs a crate, grabs a bag, lines the crate with the bag, grabs the ropey entrails and puts them in the reinforced bag with, as I remember correctly, bare hands. His expression is one of utter and complete disgust. I watch, sort of numb. When the entrails have all been safely placed back into the crate, I carry it to the dumpster. I dump it in. I go to the shul's bathroom and wash my hands, and then return to my father and continue helping him as if nothing has happened.

There is something about childhood that shielded me from that experience that night. Kids often fall on the pavement, skin their knees and get back up again, resume their play. And that day, I did the same thing, I shook off the nasties; forgetting about it.

The next year I did the chicken thing with my father, as well as the year after. But each year I grew a bit more squeamish. By the time I was in high school I could barely manage to shlug for myself, leaving the job of assisting my father (and the pocket money) to my younger siblings. I had had enough. Apparently, so did my sister, who became vegetarian shortly after one yom kippur and didn't touch meat, chicken or eggs for almost a decade.

A few years ago my father located a Muslim halal butchering facility that could be used to kosher chickens for our one night chicken extravaganza. This separated the chicken swinging experience from the chicken slaughtering experience. It also made really great press: Orthodox Jews and observant Muslims in a win-win arrangement, and not for secular, but for religious purposes.

I have since left home, moved out of state and needless to say am happily avoiding this custom. The chicken thing continues to grow in Detroit, thanks to my father's continued commitment. This past year, my father ordered 1,200 chickens. Over 2,000 Jews from all walks of life came to the succah this year to shlug kapores. The birds, which are organic and free range are sold at a low rate to local institutions, and are also sought after by many local families (and if I remember correctly, taste pretty amazing). My father also imports evergreen boughs and people can purchase fresh schach for their succahs.

This year, my father ordered a lamb along with the chickens, which was purchased by five families as an experiment in local, free range organic Kosher meat. It was not a cost effective venture but made for some pretty interesting discussion at this year's event.

This year, I am spending this holiday with my grandmother in Philadelphia. In lieu of chickens, I wrote a check to a local charity that helps children with special needs and swung some quarters over my head, wrapped in a handkerchief. I helped my grandmother with the prayers. We said it first in Hebrew, than in English and we giggled at the pristine substitute of a few coins replacing a squawking bird.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Rosh Hashana in Crown Heights

This past Rosh Hashana, I had the pleasure of visiting old friends in Crown Heights; the quintissential American shtetle where I was conceived and borne; the physical space that represents the anxiety causing, albeit loving and vibrant world of my childhood.

I have no recollections of holidays in Brooklyn. Even though my father is a chabad rabbi, and there was significance tied to spending the holidays in what was often described as a holy place, holidays were spent at home with my parents, sisters, and often my grandparents (I went to Crown Heights annually, between the ages of six and 18, for Chof Bais Shvat, the annual chabad women's convention, which was held on the anniversary of the Rebbe's wife's death. One day I will describe these conventions at length).

Crown Heights is beautiful. It is Brooklyn, streets are lined with mature trees, people are bustling about, doing last minute shopping or dashing to Mikvah; the facades of townhouses flaunt many old details, gargoyles, window seats, elaborate ironwork. And I was visiting old friends, newly married, whom I haven't seen in months.

My friend insisted we go to 770 for the first night of the holiday and I was intrigued. Her husband went off to a different congregation (men and women do not sit together for services, so it's not unusual for young wives to head elsewhere...that is, if they go to shul at all). It was beautiful to walk to 770 after candle lighting. There were so many people in the streets! and the weather was perfect; purple dusk, ripening summer evening.

I have this memory, I must have been about seven or eight years old, of going to NY with my classmates accompanied by our nineteen year old cheder teacher. Our school chartered a big noxious bus, the kind with those awful and oddly smelling toilet stalls in the back, so that we could spend a weekend with the Rebbe. This was at the very end of the Rebbe's life when he was extremely ill and our school's Hanhalah (administration) felt it extremely important that we go "be by the Rebbe." I remember the seriousness of the trip (and that we could not watch Miami Boys Choir videos on the overhead TV/VHS because it was deemed "not tzniusdik" for a bus full of pre-adolescent girls to be watching unmistakably cute frum boys belt their little lungs out, even though they were singing words of Torah and T'fillah).

During the last years of his life, the Rebbe did not make his way to his usual chair which was situated on a Bimah/platform in the Southeast corner of the sanctuary; instead, a balcony was constructed, borrowed from a shtickel of the women's section. The Balcony had red velvet curtains and the men would sing and Davven downstairs until the Rebbe's secretary opened the curtains, and the Rebbe would look down at his congregants, at his singing chassidim, and occasionally smile or wave his arm.

Our teachers wanted us to be as close as possible to the Rebbe, so we all made our way, single file to the Third Shul, the women's section closest to the Rebbe's balcony. Here, it was extremely crowded and hot. Because we were little, I remember being hoisted into the upper shelves of the bookcases, and lying sideways in the fetal position with my head on a stack of Chumashim; I could see the Rebbe perfectly, and I could see the tops of the women's shaitels and beyond them and below, the teeming throngs of the jubilant men.

The place has not changed much since then. For a shul, it is remarkably ugly, scuffed manila tiled linoleum flooring, warped walnut pews, tinted glass on the balcony so the woman can follow services without being seen by the men below. Yet for me it is familiar, and comforting, and I always run into someone I know.

This year is no exception. I see one of my little sister's friends. I am looking for my Israeli cousins, who come with thousands of their peers, to spend their high holidays here. They too have come because of this place's stated holiness. I cannot located them in the hundreds of faces I can see from my vantage point.

This year I am sitting in my friend's family's seats in the Second Shul. In 770, those who pay for seats have the privilege of doing so because these seats have been passed down from generations. There will never be enough seats as demand far exceeds supply. Israelis who come back every year know return to the same 12 inch square they stood in last year. People are wedged shoulder to shoulder and the back of every pew has an extra girl precariously perched, apologetically smiling at the woman whose space she has invaded. The woman who sits at the end of our isle has commissioned a carpenter to build up a partition so that she wont get jostled by the crowd. I listen to her tell her neighbor how it was worth the expense.

There is lots of bickering. Some of the Israeli girls are extremely rude; some of the women are extremely territorial. Mostly people try not to move around too much, and keep their elbows tucked in. It's a bit like being stuck in the largest elevator in the world. The signage the fire department posts on every public building is partially obscured; I cannot see the recommended maximum capacity and try not to think about fire. There is a new LED flatscreen on one of the walls downstairs, listing times for morning services and Torah readings. I imagine someone leaning on the controls and a baseball game being turned on accidentally in the middle of the Haftorah...

Since the Rebbe's passing the shul has been in the domain of the Meshichists, the group of Lubavitchers who believe that even though we cannot see the Rebbe anymore, he is the Messiah. There was some sort of court case, in which the official organization of Chabad, Agudas Chassidey Chabad had sued their tenants, the Mishichist congregation for eviction. They didn't want the flagship synagogue of the movement controlled by quacks who still believe the Rebbe is alive (but we can't see him because he moved to a different spiritual plane). As far as I am aware, Agudas Chabad lost the case; but in any event, the Mishichists are definitely a presence. At one point (considerably past candle lighting time when it is halachicallly forbidden to affix posters to a wall), a well dressed woman entered our section and posted up a large poster with the Rebbe and Rebbetzin's photos, advertising a website called geulanovelties.com. She was yelled at by a few grandmother types, but she insisted that she couldn't remove the poster as she would be breaking shabbos, which would be, in fact, true). It was a blatant act and I was secretly cheering her on because it was so highly entertaining.

Services were irrelevant. Eventually the Shliach Tzibur started and we could sort of hear him and sort of follow. The noise was deafening, a dull roar. Most of the time, I people watched: Young mothers hoisting up their children so that they could see the Rebbe's chair, "Look! The Rebbe!" The congregants speak as if he is present.

It is now time for the Amidah. There is no room for the men to take three steps back. I see a phenomenon I've heard about called the "washing machine." It is a mosh pit, and when it's time for the three steps back, three steps forward, it's as if someone has put the crowd on spin cycle. At one point, I see a guy punch another guy in the face.

Services end. It takes about 10 minutes for the crowd to clear enough for us to exit (we were standing about 20 feet from the door).


Here, I feel it is appropriate to say something about what young women and men in Crown Heights look like. The contrast could not be more severe. Young men are culturally trained to appear as if they do not care about asthetics. This is a reflection of their learning of Chassidus, which places the spiritual over the materialistic. When I was in high school, my classmates and I took this to heart with our uniforms, which we purposely wore as slouchily as possible (and remember, in the 90s, grunge was still in): oversized oxford blouses (I borrowed my father's shirts), ankle length pleated skirts, pull-over sweatshirts and messy buns. The guys, whose beards are untouched, walk around with their jackets off, their shirts untucked and their shoes scuffed. On holidays, such as this past one, they clean up a bit, I think their mothers would have heart attacks if they didn't.

Anyway, forgetting the guys, its the girls and women that really deserve some focus. This is what was in this year:

Patent leather pumps in bright colors, pencil skirts, sexy ruffled blouses, big rock star hair, designer strollers, pendant necklaces, diamond tennis bracelets, platform sandals in muted leathers or animal print, printed silk dresses ala Pucci, jewel tones, 80s bubble skirts, purple leather Machzors, oversized graduated sunglasses, 40s inspired necklines and shoulders, metalic sandals with archetectural heels, pointy flats, tie shirts that V in the front with bell sleeves, red lipstick, bright and short manicure/pedicures.

I am not sure how I really feel about this. For someone who is interested but not obsessed with fashion, I was proud of their foxiness; on the other hand, the only time I had ever seen so many beautiful, beautifully dressed woman was a chance walk through Bryant Park during Fall fashion week, and it was a bit much.

Part of what bothers me is not their flamboyant sexiness, but how it fits into the Crown Heights mentality. For an outsider looking in, the combination of baby strollers and domesticity with all of this fashion smacks of desperate housewives. Add some gossip and demanding husband and a a baby or two, and all I can do is worry for these girls. The obsession with fashion wouldn't bother me as much if I didn't feel it was at the expense of their potential for self acctualization. The lipstick replaces the degrees, the pointy boots, the career, the designer name, is traded for the worldview.

Don't misunderstand--there are many accomplished, motivated young women who are investing in themselves in meaningful ways, but what I hope isn't happening is that the culture promotes outward appearances more than meaningful internal action--that even as it provides some opportunity for women to be empowered, it places a higher value on let's just say it, a woman's ability to appear sexy.

For all I could see, my friends are happily shopping, getting jewelary from their husbands, and decorating cake. They are truly happy. I just don't really relate...it just comes accross as a bit lowbrow: Consumerist, materialistic American. It's as if they have never read a newspaper and seen their lifestyle in a global context (and if they have, they dont see how their lives translate into the picture). It's a very bright and glitzy bubble.

I could go on with this thought, but I think I've made my point. In any event, I spotted these turquoise pumps on this Australian gal that are must haves, and I am definitely getting a pencil skirt for the fall.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Bus poetry

Here is a selection of poems I wrote commuting to work this month on the 460 heading downtown. The actual work was written in a wonderful little black book that is full of to-do lists and wishful thinking. The pen I used has a heavy metal casing that makes my thoughts heavy (or maybe it is the other way around). I am blogging my poems so that their content will be preserved more permanently (and in a format that doesn't look like it was created by a psychotic drunk...the bus has terribly detrimental effects on handwriting).

Without further Ado:

After Refolding the Front Page

The marketplace of ideas is closed for winter
The vendors have run out of inspiration;
have locked their stalls.
I went walking through the cold deserted pavilions,
passed the pillars of ancient wisdom, long forgotten.
The warehouses of manufactured notions--
They used to churn out concepts by the trainload.
Now, the train of thought is lost.
In the alley, I saw a Dusty Blue Bin (municipal in shape and texture)--a few recycled ideas at the bottom.
But the windows of opportunity have been shattered,
the soapboxes dismantled,
and the memories are dead.

At Glory Market
In Model T Square
the bus driver refused to open the back door

Wildflowers growing
In an empty city lot
The only new growth

Haiku #2:

I love this city
but without direction, Is
the map not useless?

Friday, November 09, 2007

On Self Awareness

Back at my finest. My lithargic, crappy mood has compelled me to write. It is true, after all, that I create my best work out of melancholy.

Have I resigned myself to my usual tendancy to fall towards depression? I don't know and I don't care (an answer which is itself alarming). But I have temporarily misplaced my knack for self-inspiration.

I wear my heart on my sleeve. With saluations, no more do I respond "I am fine." I say, "I am glad you asked" and then proceed to say "my life has reverted to the singular (school), I am looking for direction, and overall, I am a bit down right now."

Mostly, people are glad I shared (because they are feeling the same way).

I used to write thought-tangents in a diary. Diaries are usually gifts from people one doesn't know very well (In high school, I would beging each entry with "Dear Susan." because "Dear Diary" was too cheesy, and the woman who gave me the journal was named Susan.) I was embarrassed to be writing down my vulnerabilities, but I would write. I would write out all of my sadness and then try to write myself some advice, that I would then ernestly try to follow.

In college I stopped writing. I lost my creativity in college. Some people find themselves, I sort of turned off. I did not do this intentionally, I just decided to devote myself to other people's writings, music and art.

And then, I came accross some introspective blogs and decided to give it a go. Its nice getting occassional feedback, but its not the same as the written form. For one, my handwriting is affected by mood. For another, I find nothing romantic or nostalgic about staring at a screen. And with the speed of the keyboard, I find my thoughts come too quickly, and they are less deliberate and thoughtful.

I don't think we can control the degree of introspection. I can't turn of my anxiety-laden stream of blather. I know they make drugs to lesson self-absorption, self-awareness, self-centerdness. But I have my pride and own every black thought. Every one of them. Of course I have cultivated each pessimistic reverie to perfection; and it was I, who fashioned the spears aimed at my heart. They are mine and I am possessive.

Still, it would be refreshing to be relieved of them every once in a while. Because once I start down that path of darkness, turning around is extremely difficult. Sometimes I wonder that I am continuing down an increasingly shadowy road, and that the lamps at the sidelines are only drawing me in deeper.

Sunday, October 21, 2007


For people who are sick of consumerism, mass produced culture, there is freeganism. Its a movement to live off the waste of a wasteful society. Its members go behind upscale supermarkets and groceries late at night with robber-gloved hands and carefully sift through stretchy black garbage bags. They are not bums or vagrants, no, some earn six figures. And they are savvy. They find the stuff that is not expired or over the due date, it is not rancid or moldy. It is just the extras they cannot sell or donate.

I would argue that foraging for food is an extreme example, but it can be enlightening to spend less. After spend-binging all summer, I want nothing more than to save my pennies, do more with less, and appreciate that which I have but have overlooked.

I go through boxes in the basement instead of shopping. I read old notebooks from high school, and the knowlege seems fresh. I found pottery I threw and forgot about, I found beauty and it cost me nothing.

I walked in the park. I went home and ate canned beans and hot dogs instead of going to starbucks. I played a board game with friends, instead of a jaunt to the movies.

I called my grandparents. I acctually had a nice few hours with my mom.

I am going back to basics and it feels wonderful.